Towel Talk: Thomas Schefichik of Sporting Sota on the Golden Gophers


The Hilltoppers face their first road test of the year as they head to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and will take on Minnesota as the Preseason NIT (this is still apart of the NIT, right?) gets underway for both schools. As an educated sports fan, not just WKU fan, I always enjoy expanding my knowledge on other teams, which is why we reached out to co-editor of Sporting Sota, Fansided’s Minnesota local site, Thomas Schefchik, to give us the low down of the Gophers, and how much we can know after a season-opening game against Louisville.

Wave the Red Towel: What were the expectations for the Gophers coming into the season?
Thomas Schefchik: The expectation for the Gophers is to make the NCAA Tournament. They barely missed the tourney last year due to losing some winnable games, particularly the triple-overtime game against Purdue. They came together and played really well in the NIT, winning the tournament. Losing Austin Hollins to graduation hurts, but many of last year’s key contributors are back. In addition to Andre Hollins, Mo Walker and DeAndre Mathieu are back from last season’s squad.

WTRT: Andre Hollins was the leading scorer for Minnesota against Louisville, and was the only Gopher to score over 10 points. How key will he be for the Minnesota offense throughout the year, and in particularly, how key will he be in the Gopher offense against the Tops?
TS: Andre Hollins is the straw that stirs the Gophers’ drink. He is not hyper athletic, but he is a natural scorer. He understands the game well and is good at getting himself to the foul line. Once there, he is the Gophers’ all-time leader in free throw percentage. Against WKU, the Gophers need to make sure the offense runs through Hollins, and Hollins needs to play aggressively to make sure he is able to get his shot and keep the offense going.

WTRT: Even in the loss to open the season, what did the Gophers do well against Louisville that they’ll look to continue doing against WKU?
TS: The score against Louisville was fairly lopsided, but there were some positives.The Gophers were not able to mount a comeback but did play the Cardinals to a 38-38 score in the second half. Hollins played very well, which was an especially good sign because he was banged up for much of last season. Defensively the Gophers were not good enough, but did have six steals.

WTRT: On the contrary, what will the Gophers have to do much better against WKU than they did against Louisville?
TS: For one thing, they cannot fall behind by so much, so fast. Deficits can be very difficult to make up in college basketball. They absolutely have to play a cleaner game. 18 turnovers and 19 first half fouls simply will not cut it. They need to make shots as well. Against Louisville, they only shot 40% from the field, 60% from the free throw line and 22% on three pointers. Very hard to win a game that way.

WTRT: You’re on the ESPN3 commentary crew, and you have to put together the three keys to the game for each side. What are they?
TS: Minn: 1. Take care of the basketball. 2. Make open shots. 3. Stay out of foul trouble.

WKU: 1. Jump out to an early lead. 2. Clamp down on Hollins. 3. Get to the free throw line and convert.

Big thanks to Thomas for sharing his knowledge with us. If you care to follow the Minnesota grad, and lifelong Sota sports fan, or get the Gopher take on tonight’s game, head on over to their site!